Trade Routes: Global Market Warming

Can there exist “better than perfect?” In today’s global market, success may not depend on perfection but on constantly “perfecting” products, services and offerings. Something that works reliably, on time, without much effort or cost, and that people appreciate and are willing to pay for usually suffices. In fact, you may have noticed, that is what we often get from well-known companies and brands—good enough in its current form; not perfect but with the promise of continuing improvement.

For example, Microsoft has consistently been introducing and delivering products and services that have not been “quite there” at the launch—whether intentionally or unintentionally, I don’t know. Yet, its products are functional and fill a need. The products may not do all that you would like, or in the way you want, but they do the job. If you really want perfection, you will have to wait a lot longer and pay much more. And even then, “perfect” may not be much better than okay and is probably just the best that is available.

What’s Around the Corner

In today’s global market, “best” is always just around the corner. Human creativity is at work 24/7 everywhere. Increasingly, beauty products are being developed and sold worldwide from and within countries many Westerners only used to know from National Geographic. So, get used to the idea that, sooner or later, something better will be coming your way—and just as likely from the most remote corner of the earth as from your local market.

This trend is as natural as evolution. Nature is always developing better solutions to meet the demands of changing environments, because perfection rarely occurs. The same thing happens in business—it is industrial evolution.

Global Market Warming

Warming isn’t limited to the environment; it is also happening in global markets. They are heating up as living standards rise around the world and as customers become more sophisticated and demanding. If you watched the Beijing-hosted Olympics, you couldn’t help but notice how similar the Chinese people to their Western-world counterparts in how they act, dress, eat and drive. Not only are Chinese consumers’ preferences on the move, their expectations are also rising rapidly.

Rising consumer sophistication has led to a new and powerful expectation, the desire for new products, services and experiences. To satisfy this growing expectation, businesses everywhere need to incorporate an equally new discipline into their daily operations—continuous innovation. Marginal improvements no longer suffice. Motorola introduced an exciting design when it launched the Raz’r, but as competitors came out with similar designs and new functions, the Raz’r lost its edge. While design can be aesthetically pleasing, it is not enough in the long run; customers want added benefits and value.Global market warming is melting glacial companies everywhere. Slow-moving companies will falter if they fail to keep up with fast-growing consumer expectations, and companies with huge and largely inefficient infrastructures can no longer deal with the pace in which the business environment is changing.

Resilience in Changing Times

In order to keep up with and eventually stay ahead of these inevitable global trends and changes, businesses must be resilient, must accept the fact that, at some point, they will be blindsided by unexpected, super-hot changes in the markets, and need to prepare accordingly. Resilience will be a key trait for survival, and this demands quick recognition and response to significant, but often subtle, market changes.

A Culture of “Bouncebackability”

Risks are out there and always will be, but what counts is our ability and readiness to bounce back when they hit. How can we be prepared to bounce back? The U.S. Council on Competitiveness says: “Focus on creating a culture that emphasizes resilience and improved operational risk management, i.e., not necessarily knowing what risks will occur, but having the ability to respond to them, whatever they are, in order to keep going and improving.” The key word being culture.

To develop a culture capable of bouncing back from unexpected set backs, business leaders must set the tone of resilience and constant innovation at the top. Leaders must live up to the values and behaviors they demand of others and not fail to reward those employees who display and practice them.

In doing so, a company will build the necessary methods and culture to deal with quickly changing markets and consumers.

Bottom Line

Global market warming is not a transitory trend—it is becoming an intrinsic element of competing in business. Businesses must evolve faster than their customers and competitors to stay relevant.

Michael Wynne is president of International Management Consulting Associates, and a veteran of marathon races. He has helped companies and executives grow their businesses in markets around the world. Contact him at [email protected] or visit
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